The exchange of tough messages between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could be explained by specific historical and psychological reasons, says Tom McGregor, political analyst and Asia-Pacific commentator for China's national TV broadcaster CNTV, suggesting that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit to North Korea has sent a certain signal to Kim.
"Both sides [the US and China] feel an obligation to talk tough while making swift moves towards peace, or many people will be confused," McGregor suggested. "From the day they were born, North Koreans were raised on the message that Americans and South Koreans are villains and enemies of their nation. But suddenly, Kim Jong-un has announced that the country will have peaceful talks with Seoul and Washington. Additionally, Pyongyang has just pledged to de-nuclearization. How will you as a North Korean react to the onset of sweeping events? You may fear the current government has been fooled and betrayed by outside forces."
Pyongyang's threat to cancel the expected Singapore meeting was especially predictable given National Security Adviser John Bolton's "Libya scenario" remarks in regard to North Korean denuclearization and US-South Korean navy drills in mid-May.
Trump made a tit-for-tat gesture by publishing a cancellation letter on May 24 that said that "the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place."
A letter from the President to Chairman Kim Jong Un: "It is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting." pic.twitter.com/3dDIp55xu1— The White House (@WhiteHouse) 24 мая 2018 г.
"Trump's cancellation letter, which he made public and issued to Kim Jong-un last Friday, was well-crafted to show that even the strong and powerful US was really bothered by the strong words coming from Pyongyang," McGregor pointed out.
The commentator underscored that one should to take a closer look at Trump's letter as it left the door for further dialogue wide-open: "If you change your mind having to do with this most important summit, " the US president wrote, "please do not hesitate to call me or write."
"And here's when the magic worked," the analyst noted. "North Koreans can cite the cancellation letter to its citizens and say we are still strong and powerful against the US, which is a face-saving gesture for them."
On May 25, Pyongyang signaled that it is still interested in holding talks with the US president, which was endorsed by Trump as "the warm and productive statement."
Very good news to receive the warm and productive statement from North Korea. We will soon see where it will lead, hopefully to long and enduring prosperity and peace. Only time (and talent) will tell!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 25 мая 2018 г.
Just two days later, on May 27, Trump tweeted that a United States team had arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the expected summit.
Our United States team has arrived in North Korea to make arrangements for the Summit between Kim Jong Un and myself. I truly believe North Korea has brilliant potential and will be a great economic and financial Nation one day. Kim Jong Un agrees with me on this. It will happen!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 27 мая 2018 г.
Besides, on May 26, Kim held a meeting with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in. The event caught many by surprise since the North-South Korean summit was earlier suspended by Pyongyang over the US-South Korean drills.
"Meanwhile, when North Korean officials returned to more harmonious talks with the US, Pyongyang was smart to say that they did not enter de-nuclearization talks with Trump simply to receive generous foreign aid and economic cooperation deals with Washington," McGregor opined. "North Korea has to demonstrate they supported US-NK talks on their own free will, not because they felt frightened or they were greedy. This is the key factor to note in explaining why you see tough talk leading up to the Singapore summit."
Who Blinked First, Trump or Kim?
The question then arises as to who blinked first, Trump or Kim. However, according to the Beijing-based analyst it does not really matter.
"For the sake of promoting peace and prosperity in our world, I will not answer who blinked first," he said. "I know who did, but it does not serve the interests of bilateral harmony to say who did or didn't. I want both Washington and Pyongyang to believe they are winners when they attend the Singapore summit. By thinking they are winners they will feel more motivated to keep peaceful dialogue, as well as diplomatic and economic cooperation going forward. And with such positive results, we can all witness a new era of stability in the Asia-Pacific region for the years ahead."
Korean Peninsula Denuclearization: Russia Steps In
Meanwhile, on May 31 Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov paid an official visit to North Korea following an invitation from his North Korean counterpart, Ri Yong Ho.
"Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has played a vital role to spur more peaceful dialogue between United States President Donald J. Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un," McGregor stressed.
"So when it seemed apparent that North Korean officials were engaged in using blustery language against the White House, Russia's Foreign Ministry saw it necessary to urge North Korea to show more diplomatic tact when speaking with the US State Department and for the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit to go on as scheduled on June 12, which would be in the best interests of all parties involved, including Beijing and Moscow," the commentator suggested.
The commentator presumed that "Moscow maintains strong ties with Pyongyang and hence can influence North Korea's behavior."
During his visit to North Korea, Lavrov told Kim that Moscow highly values the declaration signed by Pyongyang and Seoul and is ready to assist in implementing any agreements that should come out of the North's summits with South Korea and the United States.
"For the sake of global peace, North Korea appears to have understood [Russia's] message, while its [North Korea's] diplomats have worked tirelessly in the past few days to ensure the Singapore Summit will go on as planned and scheduled. Moscow deserves special commendation for ensuring Pyongyang to maintain momentum for peace on the Korean Peninsula," McGregor concluded.
The views and opinions expressed by Tom McGregor and Ekaterina Blinova are those of the contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.